Pressure ulcers are also called bedsores, or pressure sores. They can form when your skin and soft tissue press against a harder surface, such as a chair or bed, for a prolonged time. This pressure reduces blood supply to that area. Lack of blood supply can cause the skin tissue in this area to become damaged or die. When this happens, a pressure ulcer may form.
You have a risk of developing a pressure ulcer if you:
You will need to take steps to prevent these problems.
You, or your caregiver, need to check your body every day from head to toe. Pay special attention to the areas where pressure ulcers often form. These areas are your:
Call your health care provider if you see early signs of pressure ulcers. These signs are:
Treat your skin gently to help prevent pressure ulcers.
Drink plenty of water every day.
Make sure your clothes are not increasing your risk of developing pressure ulcers:
After urinating or having a bowel movement:
Make sure your wheelchair is the right size for you.
Sit on a foam or gel seat cushion that fits your wheelchair. Natural sheepskin pads are also helpful to reduce pressure on the skin. DO NOT sit on donut-shaped cushions.
You or your caregiver should shift your weight in your wheelchair every 15 to 20 minutes. This will take pressure off certain areas and maintain blood flow:
If you transfer yourself (move to or from your wheelchair), lift your body up with your arms. DO NOT drag yourself. If you're having trouble transferring into your wheelchair, see a physical therapist to learn proper technique.
If your caregiver transfers you, make sure they know the proper way to move you.
Use a foam mattress or one that is filled with gel or air. Place pads under your bottom to absorb wetness to help keep your skin dry.
Use a soft pillow or a piece of soft foam between parts of your body that press against each other or against your mattress.
When you are lying on your side, put a pillow or foam between your knees and ankles
When you are lying on your back, put a pillow or foam:
Some other tips are:
Call your doctor right away if:
Decubitus ulcer prevention; Bedsore prevention; Pressure sores prevention
Black JM, Edsberg LE, Baharestani MM, et al. Pressure ulcers: avoidable or unavoidable? Results of the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel Consensus Conference. Ostomy Wound Manag. 2011;57:24–37. PMID: 21350270. Available at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21350270.
Hafner A, Sprecher E. Ulcers. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 105.
Perry D, Borchert K, Burke S, et al., Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. Pressure ulcer prevention and treatment Protocol. Updated January 2012. Available at: www.icsi.org/_asset/6t7kxy/PressureUlcer.pdf. Accessed July 30, 2014.
Updated by: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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